The last thing Michigan State wants to do Saturday is energize its struggling arch-rival with self-inflicted errors.
The 10th-ranked Spartans have won eight in a row, but they’ve got one major issue heading into their annual showdown against Michigan in Ann Arbor: turnovers.
In a 79-67 victory over Nebraska on Wednesday, Michigan State committed 19 turnovers. The Spartans had 15 against Northwestern in their previous outing and still escaped with a six-point victory.
Coach Tom Izzo knows his team can’t continue to live on the edge.
“We’re going to have to figure it out, do a better job, because eventually it’s going to get us and we’ll be ashamed,” Izzo said.
The Spartans (13-2, 4-0 Big Ten) had to rally from a halftime deficit against the Wildcats and led by four at the break against the Cornhuskers, who are winless in the Big Ten, despite 12 turnovers.
“It’s just inexcusable to have that many turnovers in that amount of time,” freshman guard Max Christie said. “We knew that arguably our biggest issue in tonight’s game was the turnovers, and we knew that it’s not something that is a hard fix for us. We know it’s something that we can fix pretty easily if you just commit to it and really put in the time and effort into making sure that we take care of the ball more.”
The giveaways took away from the positives Izzo saw, including the play of Christie and Gabe Brown.
“They made some shots early because we turned it over as well and they got open looks,” he said. “That got them going. We bounced back, but I’m sitting here disappointed.”
Christie had a career-high 21 points and Brown scored 14 while also making four steals and blocking two shots.
“I was really proud of his game; he was having fun,” Izzo said of Brown. “He was having energy; he was playing hard.”
The Wolverines (7-6, 1-2), who began the season ranked in the Top 10, are looking to turn their season around, with the Spartans and No. 3 Purdue coming to town in their next two games.
Rutgers achieved its first-ever victory over Michigan, 75-67, on Tuesday. The Scarlet Knights shot 48.2 percent and made nearly half of their 23 3-point attempts.
“I think guys are having too good of nights out there,” Michigan center Hunter Dickinson said. “We’re putting ourselves behind. When teams shoot above 50% from 3, it’s hard to beat any team. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. For us, guarding the 3-point line and continuing to defend is our biggest problem right now.”
Dickinson carried the Wolverines’ offense with 25 points, but the perimeter offense was lacking, as the Wolverines made just 3 of 15 3-point attempts. It was reminiscent of their first conference loss last month, when they shot 3-for-18 from beyond the arc against Minnesota.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” Dickinson said. “I feel like we played really hard out there and (the result) is not what we wanted. But there are some things that we could take with us, some learning experiences to get us ready for Michigan State and hopefully turn this thing around.”
-Field Level Media